Friends and family are always likely to have an opinion on a new lover in your life. But there is one factor above any that is likely to arouse much interest: if you have a disparity of age.

If they’re much older or younger than you, friends and family will often see this as a negative. They might caution you against getting involved.

The first thing to remember is that you’re not the first one to be faced with this kind of judgement. Nothing gets the right-wing media talking more than when a celebrity starts dating someone who’s a lot older or younger than them.

And there are plenty of famous people who have done just that. In 2015, comedian Stephen Fry married a man 30 years his junior. Last February, Cheryl Fernandez Versini started dating Liam Payne, who’s ten years younger than she is. Both couples made plenty of headlines.

So Why Does the Age Gap Worry People?

People often seem to doubt the motives of one of the partners in an age-gap relationship. They suspect how genuine their emotions are. Statistically, those suspicions are backed up. Relationships with big age differences don’t seem to stand the test of time as well as those where the partners are close in age.

A study – with over 3,000 participants – into age disparity in relationships was conducted in 2014. Published by Emory University, the research found that a five-year age gap had an 18% chance of ending in divorce. The risk rose to 39% for a relationship with a 10-year age difference, and 95% for those with a 20-year difference. According to the findings, the happiest-ever-after age gap in a relationship is one year, with only 3% of those relationships ending in divorce.

Every Relationship is Individual

However, just because the stats might be stacked against your relationship, it’s important to remember that you’re not a number. You and your partner are individuals and only the dynamics between you will determine if your relationship will last.

There are lots of advantages to having an older or younger partner, and many people find that an age gap relationship can work. For instance, younger men can often be drawn to an older woman because she’s more confident and assured than a woman his own age. Similarly, a woman in her forties could have a higher sex drive than a younger woman. At the same time, a man’s sexual peak tends to happen earlier in his life – in his twenties and thirties. Another reason that younger men like dating older women is that they are often already financially independent and secure, so they don’t have to think about providing for her on that level.

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In the reverse situation, where a younger woman dates an older man, there are also benefits. For instance, some women find older men are a better fit intellectually and that they can be more dependable than a younger man. Life experience can mean that they are calmer and more considered, as well as more considerate of their younger partner’s needs. For some younger women, there is an appeal of dating an older man who is more financially secure than someone her own age. But, again, this is down to the individual.

If you find that you’ve been attracted to a much younger or older man, the best thing is to keep an open mind and treat it as you would any other relationship. Try not to be influenced by what other people say or think and instead, focus on each other. You’ll know soon enough whether or not your relationship has a future.